Sunday, February 18, 2007

War wounded mistreated at home

The war wounded arrive from the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan by the busload. When you hear our soldiers are being treated at Walter Reed hospital, one tends to envision gleaming white halls and state of the art equipment. Unfortunately for our brave soldiers who have been injured in the line of duty, the reality falls far short of that pretty fiction. Once their ciritical care is completed they are sent to outbuildings on the hospital campus like Building 18, a roach and rodent infested holding pen with moldy walls and rotting floorboards literally coming down around their ears.

No hospital employee keeps track of them. Injured soldiers of higher rank are put in charge of keeping track of hundreds of their fellow injured peers. The staff has no idea where there are and don't seem to care. Head trauma patients are routinely "lost" because they can't remember their appointments or even negotiate the hospital grounds.
[Shannon's] eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round. His odyssey in the Other Walter Reed has lasted more than two years, but it began when someone handed him a map of the grounds and told him to find his room across post.

A reconnaissance and land-navigation expert, Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn't even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright, he said. He asked anyone he found for directions.
Even worse, many of the injured have to prove they even exist to the faceless bureaucracy that so willing threw them into the sandpit, only to deny its commitment to them when they return broken.
Sometimes, the Army has no record that a soldier even served in Iraq. A combat medic who did three tours had to bring in letters and photos of herself in Iraq to show she that had been there, after a clerk couldn't find a record of her service.

Shannon, who wears an eye patch and a visible skull implant, said he had to prove he had served in Iraq when he tried to get a free uniform to replace the bloody one left behind on a medic's stretcher. When he finally tracked down the supply clerk, he discovered the problem: His name was mistakenly left off the "GWOT list" -- the list of "Global War on Terrorism" patients with priority funding from the Defense Department.

He brought his Purple Heart to the clerk to prove he was in Iraq.
Historically an injured soldier would be treated and released to civilian life but with the wars having stretched our "volunteer" military so thin, it would appear nothing short of death will guarantee even the most severely injured won't be recalled to the front.
Almost 700 of them -- the majority soldiers, with some Marines -- have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty.
Some receive orders to return to active duty while still in wheelchairs, disoriented and drooling from medications being used to treat their injuries.

The arguments over how to support our troops has been going on as long as the wars. The popular accusation among the warmongers is that if you don't support the war, you're not supporting the troops. Yet you don't hear a whisper from these same White House cheerleaders when the GOP cut veteran's benefits and refused to fund research for head trauma injuries - the most common injury in this day of improved body armor. Not a word about Bush's proposed budget that calls for slashing funding for the VA system when he conveniently leaves office in 2009. As if his endless war will be over and no injured soldiers will be hurt by these cuts.

The military promises the recruits everything when they sign up. The failure of the White House, enabled by the GOP, to deliver on even the most basic of these promises -- decent health care -- is criminally negligent and should be prosecuted as a war crime.

The cavalier attitude of the president's supporters about this unacceptable treatment leaves me sputtering in inarticulate disgust. All I can say is that any loudmouthed warmonger that allows these conditions to persist without raising holy hell about it wherever and whenever they can, is not supporting the soldiers - they're just supporting the war machine and each other.

Update: John is right. The general in charge should be fired for allowing this to go on.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There simply is not enough money, resources or new inductees with which to support troops currently deployed. The only way we can really support our troops is to pull them the hell out of there! Maybe then there would be funds to improve health care for these brave men and women who stepped up to the plate when duty called.

2:41:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

You got that right Rocky. It's just criminal the way they're treating the wounded. And I didn't even get into the way they treat the PTSD victims since the post was already so long.

3:43:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I saw this kind of crap the entire 14 years I spent in the USMC. I am a Iraq War Vet. My best friend killed 32 Iraqis and quickly lost his mind. He has been booted from the Marine Corps with a stipend and gets a prescription mailed to his house once a month. His life is ruined.

3:44:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

We need a non-conditional draft. Everyone's children must go and get shot up. If wealthy kids come back in body bags then this madness will be ceased quickly. All the windbags on the radio call the vets "American Heros", "Great Americans". Well if it's so grand sign your little rich kids up to go ruin their lives in the "service of their country". What a load.

3:49:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

I've had that thought more than once myself vwarner. Sorry to hear about your friend.

7:08:00 PM  

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